How does it work?
The facility takes household organic waste (such as food scraps and garden waste) organic commercial and industrial waste, (like fats and oils), and organic materials from wastewater treatment plants.
The process works in two ways.
Process 1: The organic waste is fed into a sealed tank called a ‘digester’.
Just like our own bodies digest food, the digester allows natural bacteria to break down and ferment the organic material, creating a ‘biogas’ made up of methane, carbon dioxide and other gases. The biogas is cleaned to remove odours and impurities. It then fuels a generator.
The solid, organic material in the digester, known as ‘digestate’ is further processed into a nutrient-rich compost that can be used to improve the soils in our region.
Process 2: The organic waste is baked at a high temperature called carbonisation
In a separate process, the organic waste, goes through a pre-treatment process to remove non-organic items and to ensure the waste is a similar shape and size.
The waste is then dried and added to a heated vessel, where the material is ‘baked’ at a high temperature. This produces a gas called ‘syngas’ that can be used to generate renewable energy. The heat also destroys contaminants the waste may have contained.
After baking, the organic waste turns into a solid, granular material called ‘biochar’. Biochar is carbon rich and contains nutrients that plants need to grow.
How will the RRON differ to other organic processing facilities?
RRON is an organics recycling facility. Our carbonisation technology is different to waste-to-energy facilities that burn waste. Incineration facilities produce a product called ‘fly ash’ or ‘bottom ash’, which has no organic recycling value.
Rather than burning, our process ‘bakes’ the waste with minimal oxygen present. The final ‘Biochar’ product is returned to the soils to support further production of food and fibre.
Why will the RRON be located at Black Rock?
Black Rock can continue to evolve as a world-class facility for resource generation, sustainable infrastructure and water security.
RRON will be safely constructed on a vacant area land at our Black Rock Water Reclamation Plant near the corner of Black Rock Road and Thirteenth Beach Road in Connewarre. The proposed facility would take up a small 3.4-hectare section of the broader 290-hectare Black Rock site, representing about 1.2 per cent of the Black Rock site.
We acknowledge that the proposed site and the broader Black Rock precinct is on Wadawurrung Country. We are engaging with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation in the project planning.
There is suitable land available on the site at Black Rock which means we do not need to purchase new land. It will complement the existing operations at Black Rock such as recycled water production, biosolids recycling and renewable energy generation and is zoned appropriately as a Public Use Zone (service and utility), with good road access.
Black Rock is our biggest water reclamation plant. The size and energy-intensive nature of treating and transporting wastewater makes Black Rock one of our region’s biggest carbon emitters. This means we have an opportunity to reduce our emissions through renewable energy at Black Rock rather than other sites.
Renewable energy, achieved through a combination of solar projects, purchasing partnerships with other water corporations and the organics network will help us achieve our goal of 100% renewable energy by 2025 and zero net emissions by 2030.
Will it smell or be noisy?
No. Any smelly air is ‘sucked out’ and managed with dedicated odour treatment units.
The Black Rock facility is different because organic waste is delivered, stored and processed inside a building.
The trucks that collect the waste will be sealed to reduce orders when transporting waste. When trucks arrive at the facility, they will drive into a shed and the door will be closed prior to them emptying the waste for sorting. Trucks will be hosed down before leaving the facility to reduce any potential odour from the trucks.
We process organic waste within a reasonable period after it is delivered, as well as conducting regular odour inspections around the site.
A detailed management plan will be prepared, and we will need to meet Environment Protection Authority (EPA) requirements.
With more than 110 years’ experience in managing and treating millions of litres of wastewater every day, we are experienced in managing odour and being compliant with all environmental regulations and conditions.
We will meet strict guidelines to ensure any noise is not disruptive
Any noise, generated by the facility or by trucks entering and leaving the site, needs to comply with EPA conditions so it will not disturb neighbours or the surrounding environment.
Our design includes measures to limit noise. In late 2022, we will undertake a noise assessment to measure expected noise levels. The assessment will take future and existing noise (from our current Black Rock operations) into account. We will share the outcomes of the assessment with our community for further feedback.
Will there be extra traffic?
We will collaborate closely with community and the relevant road authority to better understand local traffic impact to result in minimum disruption.
It is estimated that there could be around 10 trucks moving to and from the site a day, increasing to 16 trucks a day by 2033 as waste volumes increase. This represents an increase of traffic by 0.1% on Barwon Heads Road which currently has an estimated 11,000 vehicles per day. Barwon Water will complete a more detailed traffic assessment in late 2022 and share the outcomes with our community.
When will trucks operate?
Trucks would operate on weekdays during normal working hours.Times may vary depending on when residential waste is collected from the kerbside and how far trucks need to travel from the collection area. Trucks are expected to enter the site from Black Rock Road, via Barwon Heads Road, mostly from the west and less frequently from the east.
Thirteenth Beach Road and Bluestone School Roads will not be used as they are subject to three tonne load limits. An initial assessment indicates no upgrades are required on these roads to manage additional trucks.
Truck movements would commence when the site is expected to be operational in mid 2025. There will be truck activity during construction, from late-2023. We will provide additional detail on these construction activities prior to any construction commencing.
Will traffic impact local cycling routes?
Safety of our staff, contractors and local community is a high priority. Truck movements are not expected to impact existing cycling routes.
We understand that Thirteenth Beach Road, which connects to the Black Rock Cycle Path, is a busy cyclist route. Once operational, truck drivers will be given a site induction including information about the nearby cyclist route.
Will there be any environmental impact?
No. We are leading this project to mitigate the impact of waste and climate change to reduce our carbon emissions.
The Regional Renewable Organics Network will need to meet to Environment Protection Authority regulations to ensure no damage to the environment. An environmental management plan will be prepared for the site.
We intend to plant additional trees around the site to help screen the facility and blend it with the surrounding environment. The facility will be designed to manage stormwater and integrate with existing stormwater management at Black Rock to prevent any runoff into the natural environment.
The site will have a positive impact by reducing waste, reducing emissions and producing environmentally beneficial products for agriculture.
Fire prevention measures will be put in place to ensure there is a low risk of fire.
Fire infrastructure will be located throughout the site to prevent and manage fire and requires approval by the Environment Protection Authority and Country Fire Authority.
What will it look like?
We are committed to ensuring the facility is compact with minimal visual impact to the surrounding area.
The facility would be compact with most equipment and sheds being low-rise and only range from two to twelve metres.
It would include a shed for receiving and sorting the organic waste, tanks to hold and process waste, enclosed units that produce soil enhancers, generators that transform gas into energy and a flue that releases treated gases.
The facility would be built in a staged approach, allowing it to adapt to changing technology and organic waste volumes. It may need to expand in 2032 to cater for regional growth and higher volumes of waste, but any expansion would happen within the existing Black Rock site and the local community would be involved.
Below is a basic image of how the facility may look, however this may change when a functional design is completed in late 2022.
What influence will the community have?
Barwon Water is committed to actively listening and learning from different perspectives across our region. We care about our Country, customers, community and each other and will work hard to understand others’ views and follow through until we reach resolution.
We have already heard from our community throughout October and November 2021. This feedback is helping us prepare a functional design of the facility and technical assessments. There are some aspects of the project we can’t change, including the important strategic location of Black Rock for the facility, its general footprint, and some of technology we would use. However, we will take all feedback into consideration, and provide detailed information about the project to ensure you are informed every step of the way.
Why is a water utility interested in waste?
We are a leader in driving the circular economy - continually recycling and reusing resources to keep waste to a minimum and grow our local economy.
Barwon Water has a proud 110-year history as Victoria’s largest regional urban water corporation. But we are much more than a water utility.
The services we provide, are important to the prosperity of our region, and we have a leading role to play in improving the environment, harnessing the latest technology, and exploring new opportunities that benefit our region.
The Regional Renewable Organics Network would be the first of its kind (to produce biochar as well as renewable energy) in our region.
The project aligns with Barwon Water’s Strategy 2030, which aims to achieve zero waste, zero emissions and enable regional prosperity.
It also supports the Victorian Government’s Water for Victoria strategy, which calls on the water sector to adapt to climate change, reduce emissions, maximise the value of agricultural production and harness innovation to support jobs and the economy.
The Victorian Government’s 10-year Recycling Victoria Policy encourages investment in facilities that reduce the need for landfills and a transition to the circular economy, as well as introducing reforms for household waste that will make food and garden organics recovery services mandatory by 2030.
Will residents need a new bin and need to change the way they separate waste?
Local councils are implementing different solutions that best meet the needs of their communities.
Visit your council’s website for the latest information about your local collection service.
Who is paying for the project and will my bills go up?
Barwon Water will be investing in the delivery of the facility.
This investment will then be supported by local council partners and gate fees from commercial and industrial waste providers. The RRON has been designed carefully to ensure the facility is sustainably funded in a way that doesn’t require subsidies by water customers and helps reduce costs to treat our sewerage.
The Victorian State Government has also contributed $285,000 to assist with the concept development.
The project is designed to help keep bills affordable and rates down
RRON provides a lower cost solution than waste going to landfill, is competitive against other processing options, reduces the energy costs associated with treating sewerage.